Lesson #1: People still die in a Cirrus.
Sad, but true. Flying
involves risks. Some risks involve fatal accidents.
But this third annual review reflects the challenge of promoting
safety in a growing population of Cirrus pilots, more of whom have not received
factory transition training.
WHAT TO DO? Commit to flying
safely. Participate in COPA safety programs. Read Cirrus Pilot and learn.
Lesson #2: COPA members have fewer fatal accidents.
COPA members demonstrate an astoundingly better accident rate
than non-members. Only 20 percent of Cirrus fatal accidents involve COPA
members, yet more than 40 percent of Cirrus pilots are COPA members and more
than 40 percent of Cirrus airplanes are flown by COPA members. That's
Cirrus fatal accidents by membership in COPA.
COPA membership is not a causal factor, so don't join and expect
that alone will keep you safe. Lack of participation in COPA appears to
correlate with an increased chance of being involved in a fatal accident.
Membership does have its benefits!
WHAT TO DO? Participate in COPA
safety events. Encourage other Cirrus pilots to participate in COPA safety
programs. Help them understand the risks.
Lesson #3: COPA members use the CAPS parachute.
Looking at activations of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System
(CAPS), COPA members are represented slightly more than their proportion in the
Cirrus pilot population.
Cirrus parachute activations by membership in COPA.
Taken together, the fatal accident and parachute activation
observations reveal that COPA members avoid fatal accidents and use the
parachute to survive. Read on to better understand some of the reasons.
WHAT TO DO? Review emergency
procedures and decide for yourself when you have lost control and need to
activate CAPS. Practice in a simulator.
Lesson #4: Don't blame the airplane; it's us, the pilots.
Overwhelmingly, Cirrus fatal accidents
involve pilot factors. All but one of the 37 probable causes determined by NTSB
accident investigations lists pilot causes. The Greenland ferry accident was
the only mechanical cause, when the engine failed due to oil loss and the pilot
drowned after ditching.
Cirrus fatal accidents by probable cause.
accidents are caused by pilot actions. Change those
actions and we, the pilots, can reduce the fatal accident
WHAT TO DO? Commit to flying safely. Participate in COPA
safety programs, especially the scenario-based decision-making programs at CPPP
and CDM seminars.
Lesson #5: Experience is not enough.
Surprisingly, high-time pilots are
involved in three-quarters of the Cirrus fatal accidents. Critics of Cirrus
Design often complain about the marketing to newbie pilots. You would expect a
rash of accidents involving low-time pilots. Not so.
Cirrus fatal accidents by pilot total flying time.
Pilots with more than
400 hours total time were involved in 33 of 44 fatal accidents where pilot
experience has been reported.That level of experience usually comes from
several years of flying. Yet, that experience did not keep them out of trouble.
two pilots in a Cirrus fatal accident had less than 150 hours total time. One
was Cory Lidle, who had an instructor in the right seat during the accident.
The other was near Cherbourg, France under unknown circumstances.
Unfortunately, we do
not know the proportion of Cirrus pilots with high or low experience. We only
know the number of pilots in fatal accidents.Therefore,we can not determine a rate to
see if pilots with low experience have a greater rate of accidents than those
with high experience.This will change with the addition of Cirrus airplanes to
flight training schools for primary flight instruction, and we observe that the
pool of new pilots learning to fly in a Cirrus is growing.
with instrument, commercial and instructor certificates were involved in
three-quarters of all Cirrus fatal accidents where the pilot ratings were
Cirrus fatal accidents by type of pilot certificate.
usually indicate higher levels of skill and judgment, but still, these pilots
found themselves in situations that they did not handle safely.
WHAT TO DO? Cirrus pilots must
recognize the challenge of transitioning to an SR2X airplane. Ensure that your
training matches your missions, especially if your new missions do not match
Lesson #6: Respect your lack of experience in an SR2X.
Almost every pilot knows that low
time-in-type represents a greater risk until you gain experience with the new
airplane. Cirrus SR2X airplanes are no different.
About half of the
fatal accident pilots for which we know their time-in-type had less than 150
hours in an SR2X. Three fatal Cirrus accidents occurred during training: one
during transition training, another in the primary training of an experienced
helicopter pilot, and a recent one in airline pilot training.
Cirrus fatal accidents by pilot experience flying an SR2X.
WHAT TO DO? Be cautious. Learn
about personal minimums by attending a Critical Decision Making seminar. Adjust
those minimums for your experience flying an SR2X airplane.
Lesson #7: Weather is a huge factor in Cirrus accidents.
Cirrus airplanes are great cross-country
travelers and many Cirrus pilots make the most of those capabilities.As you fly
longer distances, you are exposed to different weather systems, as well as
greater variability from your preflight forecasts, as you fly for longer times.
Cirrus pilots must be prepared to handle the challenges of weather and in some
cases they haven't.
A majority of Cirrus
fatal accidents involve bad weather (IMC), including low ceilings, fog, icing
and thunderstorms. Failing to understand weather systems, failing to obtain
updated weather briefings, lacking weather-in-the-cockpit, and especially poor
in-flight decision-making are all factors implicated in these accident reports.
Cirrus fatal accidents by weather conditions at the accident site,
instrument conditions, or visual meteorological conditions.
Furthermore, a large
number (two-thirds), of Cirrus fatal accidents were flown under visual flight
rules (VFR), where the pilots are responsible for their own terrain clearance,
their own navigation and their own decisions. Only one-third were flown under
instrument flight rules (IFR).
Cirrus fatal accidents by flight rules used by the accident pilot.
Combine the bad
weather factor with the choice of flight rules factor and we see a recipe for
disaster, especially visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions.
Cirrus fatal accidents by combination of flight rules
and weather conditions.
number of VFR-into-IMC accidents suggests that the increased situational
awareness in a Cirrus SR2X was not sufficient to help those accident pilots
escape bad weather encounters. The IFR-in-IMC accidents suggest a lack of proficiency with flying in challenging weather.
Weather is a huge factor for Cirrus pilots.
WHAT TO DO? Learn about weather.
Attend a CPPP ground session on weather. Take an aviation weather course. Learn
about personal minimums at a COPA CDM seminar.
When you encounter IMC while flying VFR, get out! Practice
avoidance maneuvers, like using the autopilot to make a 180-degree turn.
Recognize "get-there-itis" and overcome the desire to persist in worsening
Lesson #8: Landing a Cirrus can be fatal.
accidents involved landing maneuvers. Without the NTSB probable cause reports,
we don't know enough about the accident chains. What we do know is that six of
14 accidents in the past year were on approach, executing a missed approach, or
In addition, there have been several airplanes badly damaged
during high-speed landings, balked landings, porpoising, and off-runway
WHAT TO DO? Get proficient! Once
you take off, you need to be prepared for weather that might challenge you at
your destination. Gusty winds? Low ceilings? Missed approaches? Practice with
an instructor to improve competence and confidence. If you don't feel prepared
when it comes time to land, go somewhere with better weather.
Lesson #9: Many Cirrus fatal accidents compare to CAPS pulls.
When you compare the successful CAPS pulls to the 55 fatal
accident scenarios, you find remarkable similarities. My estimation is that
over half of the fatal accidents had a high or good probability of success if
the pilot would have pulled the CAPS handle. Overall, 15 had a high
probability, and another 15 had a good probability, with 19 a low probability
and 6 not yet determined.
WHAT TO DO? Prepare yourself to
use CAPS. Practice using simulator training. Read the articles in this safety
Lesson #10: CAPS works! It's yours! Plan Ahead! You are worth it! Your
ego and airplane are not!
yourself, or others, that you will use CAPS is not enough. Think through the
scenarios that have happened to other Cirrus pilots where using CAPS turned a
very difficult situation into a survivable one. Decide for yourself. Then
practice using CAPS. Overcome the tendency to practice other recovery
techniques to the exclusion of a CAPS pull.
Be prepared. That is
the most important lesson from the Cirrus accident history.
Know yourself as a pilot - your skills, your knowledge, your
proficiency.With preparation, personal minimums, and practiced aeronautical
decision-making, you may never need to use the ultimate safety device: CAPS.